Hikes | Travels | Food

Mt. Pulag's Akiki-Ambangeg Trai

A day hike to Luzon island's highest peak

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Mt. Mamara (Tanay, Rizal)

With numerous mountain trails offering dramatic views, the province of Rizal has become a very convenient option for Manila-based hikers looking for an accessible adventure. One can easily decide on a whim and plan a hike in minutes just by doing a quick Google search, just like we did. 
Marky, Me and Ferdz at Mt. Mamara
Joined by blogger friends, Ferdz (Ironwulf.net) and Marky (Nomadic Experiences), I returned to  Brgy. Daraitan, in the municipality of Tanay to visit a smaller peak, Mt. Mamara. Sharing the same starting point as Mt. Daraitan, the more popular peak, it was opened as an alternate hiking destination when Mt. Daraitan reaches its maximum visitors of 300/day. 

While Mt. Mamara has a shorter trail than Mt. Daraitan and considerably much easier, taking less than two hours to reach its peak, the views are just as rewarding. A free standing mountain in the middle of a beautiful landscape, it serves as an excellent vantage point for Tinipak river and the mountains around it. 
crossing Tinipak river to get to the main trail
It was already late in the morning when we reached the jump-off, around past 9AM but being foodies, we were lured by signages of "lomi", a thick noodle soup usually found in Batangas. Stopping at a sari-sari store, we enjoyed a second breakfast. 

It was already very humid when we began our hike, passing a wide open trail along Tinipak river. Fortunately, it only took about 30 minutes to get to the mountain's entrance where we were shielded by trees. Our chatty guide then dropped an interesting trivia. The mountain's name was derived from the word, "maramara", which means windy.  True enough, we began to feel some breeze, providing comfort to a hot hike.
Some very interesting flowers on the forest floor. Would love to know its name!
While I won't say the trail is a walk in the park, its length is short and on the challenging sections, there are tree trunks & roots to hold on to.On our way up, we stopped several times to marvel at insects and plants. We really just took it slow, enjoying the scenery that we don't often see. In less than 2 hours, we reached its summit.  Our guide shared another cool trivia, the mountain itself is in Siniloan, Laguna with an access via Rizal. We just crossed another province!

At a height of approximately 387 MASL, the scenery is impressive - jagged rock formations with a backdrop of Tinipak river and nearby mountains -  close enough that you can see the outline of a sea of trees. Going down, we traversed to another section of the mountain, exiting the side of Tinipak river, toward its infamous rock formations - smooth, white boulders by the river. 

The river's water is so clear, you can see your feet under. It's a refreshing sidetrip after a hot hike and worthwhile even as a main destination. 


Going back to the jump-off, we stopped for a late lunch in another barangay and we were surprised to find out that we were already in General Nakar, Quezon, our third province for the day.  Even more surprising were the fees we had to pay just to pass this area. Going here, we had paid just to cross the wooden foot bridge (about 5-10 Pesos/head). The fees are minimal but from a traveler's perspective, it would be more convenient if both provinces could align their efforts and just have visitors pay a fee that covers everything. 

From General Nakar, we continued to a trail beside the river where we took a tricycle back to Barangay Daraitain, stopping for a few minutes to shower at Manalo's place. 

Though hiking requires physical effort, it's emotionally refreshing and there's nothing else that gives the same feeling as spending time with nature. It's even better when you're with friends or family! :)

For travel information on Mt. Mamara, visit my friend's blog, Ironwulf | Crossing Boundaries for Mt. Mamara

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Mt. Banahaw De Tayabas

By the time I had finished work, I only had an hour left to rest, shower and finish packing. Such is hiking life these days as I returned to corporate world after a 7 month break. Always rushing, often lacking sleep for an early hike the next day. It's tiring but I'm very thankful for the energy and wonderful hiking companions. :)
Inside the mossy forest of Mt. Banahaw de Tayabas (Photo by Pat of The Green Wayfarer, visit her blog!)
The travel from Manila to the jump-off  in Tayabas was quite fast, around 4 hours with a hired van, passing Sariaya. That didn't really give us enough time to catch on sleep but the hearty pre-hike breakfast at Pat's home was energizing, giving us a happy boost before the challenge.

Before starting our hike, we had a briefing at Barangay Lalo where we were introduced to our guides and porters. By 10:14 AM, we started to make our way to the trailhead. The spotless sky, accompanied by the raging summer heat made us sweat instantly. Fortunately, the trail from start to camp 2 (1,400 MASL) was moderately challenging with plenty of flat sections. 

As most of us didn't get enough rest the day before, we took it easy, taking time to appreciate the scenery and each other's company. There was a lot of banter and laughing, making the fatigue bearable.  

On our way to the campsite, we passed what looked like a fern garden and a section filled with giant pandans. Past this area, we were serenaded by cicadas that made beautiful sounds as we walked deeper in the forest.There were snake sightings too but fortunately, off the main trail. :) 

Finally, after 6 hours of hiking, we reached the campsite, a nice flatland surrounded by tall trees and big enough to fit 15 tents. There's nearby water source too, about 30 minutes away.

On the second day, we hiked 3 more hours to get to the summit, a small area surrounded by foliage. Just a few meters away is a view deck where you can see Banahaw de Lucban, another trail offering views of its forested crater. 
(L-R) Summit with  wonderful company Pat, Gid, Cynthia, Vinci, Me, Niel (in Gray) & Coby (Photo by Kevin Manuel)
The trail to the summit (2085 MASL) is steep and we stopped countless times to catch our breaths, giving us more time to look around and appreciate nature. Fluffy moss growing around tree trunks made the forest appear magical and we felt like kids marveling at it. 

It took another two hours to go back down to the campsite and fortunately, it only started raining as we were nearing it. Water drenched the tent exteriors, making it a bit messy to pack. It's the inconvenient side of adventure that I've grown accustomed to.


From camp, going back to the jump-off was much easier, taking us about 4.5 hours including our refreshing buko break at camp 1. There are wash-up areas at Barangay Lalo but we opted to go to a resort, about 30 minutes away, for a shower and dinner. 

Check out my friend's post of our climb here : Pinoy Mountaineer | Hiking matters #592: Mt. Banahaw de Tayabas, the “other side” of Southern Tagalog’s highest peak 

Important Note: Access to the trail is restricted but possible by securing a PAMB permit from the office of the PASU (Park Superintendent) of Mts. Banahaw & San Cristobal Protected Landscape in Pagbilao. Beware of scammers organizing hikes to Mt. Banahaw.
*PAMB - Protect Area Management Bureau


Thanks to Gid for organizing this!



Sunday, April 22, 2018

Canada | Rattray Marsh Trail

It was December when I arrived in Ontario. An unfamiliar coldness, one that shot straight to the bones, overwhelmed me as I got out of the plane. I took it as Canada's comical way of welcoming me, a first time visitor from the tropics. 
Rattray Marshland
Related Post : 4 hour layover in Taipei

I knew it was going to be challenging to be outdoors during this season, but the abundance of hiking trails around the city made it irresistible to squeeze in some quick hikes. 

Rattray Marsh, in the city of Mississauga (pronounced as Missy-sah-guh),  is one of the many trails that can still be accessed during winter. Located inside an enormous conservation area (94 hectares huge!) managed by Credit Valley Conservation Foundation, it is home to hundreds of plant and bird species, as well as mammals, reptiles, amphibians and fish. 

We left the car at Jack Darling Memorial Park. From here, we walked towards Waterfront Trail, a concrete pathway with a nice view of Lake Ontario and continued until we got to the trailhead of Rattray Marsh. 
Lake Ontario from Waterfront Trail. That's Downtown Toronto on the horizon. :) 
At the entrance of Rattray Marsh
The route is quite close to a community that you can see some of the houses beyond the trail. Yet, going farther in, you still get that gratifying feeling of being close to nature.

During this season, the trees are nearly bald, its dead leaves carpeted the forest floor.  Brown, white and grey were the dominant colors in the environment. While  all these make the scenery appear gloomy,  I found beauty in nature's slumber. 

Despite not being maintained during the winter, the boardwalk trail is easy to follow. As long as people stay on the trail, I can't imagine anyone getting lost (Trail map here).

My two brothers may not be as addicted to nature as I am but they enjoyed going around  Rattray Marsh, especially since it was an easy, walk in the park. Me? When it comes to nature, I'm easily amused. 

We reached a section of the river and I spent some time staring at it. It was my first time to see a frozen river. :) 

It didn't take us more than an hour to go around. It was a weekday but we encountered other visitors who were popping in for a quick stroll. Some were even in business clothes, a rare site for me as the Philippine trails are often in remote communities, making it difficult for someone to take a quick break from work just to hit the trail. 

As it started getting too cold for us, we skipped the secondary trail which is 1.8 KM long. We could have gone around and exited in another section of the trail but since we had to go back for the car, we decided to just walk back the same way we came in. 

After our short hike, we enjoyed a late lunch at Watan Kabob, a popular Afghan restaurant in Mississauga offering affordable (10 CAD above) and  sizeable rice meals. It's my fave! 

Resources : 
For more information on the places we visited, check out the following sites,
Jack Darling Memorial Park  (close to Port Credit, a nice part of town with restaurants and cafes)
Rattray Marsh Trail

WINTER TRAVEL TIPS FOR FILIPINOS 
What I wore? 
I didn't give much fuss of what I wore, just went with the basics. 
- tuk (or beanie)
- scarf
- jacket I'm not a fan of bulky winter jackets so I opted to get a ski jacket from a Columbia outlet store in Toronto (60.45 CAD).  It's material is very light and durable. 
- innerwear. Inside my jacket, I wore Uniqlo Heattech Ultra Warm  which I bought in the Philippines. At the time, temperature went down to -32 to 34 feels and this innerwear proved effective.
- winter socks from Uniqlo (500 Pesos for 2 pairs). I just bought two pairs and bought a couple more when I arrived in Canada. (Tip: Shop at outlet stores to get good prices on winter clothes. Toronto Premium Outlet, Vaughan Mills were some of the nice outlet stores we visited.)
- waterproof hiking shoes from Columbia

TRAVEL INFORMATION
Canada Tourist Visa Application for Filipinos
I applied for a Canada tourist visa online and the entire process took 3 weeks. This includes the time I successfully submitted my application online 'til I got my passport back from the courier. Note that timeline may vary depending on your situation.  For tips, please check out, Poor Traveler |Canada Visa Requirements & Application Process for Filipinos. This blog was very helpful guide when I applied for my tourist visa. 

Link to the Visit Canada government website is here. This is also where I got information on the visa requirements. 

How to get to Canada from Manila?
The popular entry points from Manila are the cities of Toronto and Vancouver. 
From Manila to Toronto Pearson airport, I booked a flight through the Traveloka mobile app. Airline is EVA Air (love them!) with a connecting flight in Taipei. 

Return flight back to Manila was via Calgary with a connecting flight at Vancouver airport. This, I booked through a ticketing partner of  Philippine Airlines (TravelPros in SM Mega Mall). Airfare would range around 40,000 Pesos and above for a roundtrip ticket from Manila, depending on point of entry and when flight was booked.  Tip : Check skyscanner for airfare rates. 

Philippine Airlines now has direct flights to Toronto and Vancouver departing from Manila. 



Thursday, April 5, 2018

Walking Around El Nido Town (Plus travel info!)

After finishing a strong cup of iced Americano and a juicy BLT from The Cavern, I felt a strong surge of energy that I had to walk it off. The town proper is about 2KM from where I was and easy to reach via the Taytay-El Nido road. 
Add caption

First meal in El Nido was as The Cavern. They serve burgers, sandwiches and coffee.




The  road leading to El Nido  town is a narrow, two-lane street.  There's plenty of tricycles, vehicle smoke and though it's not ideal for walking, you can see limestone rock formations, a common sight in this little town. 

Despite the inconveniences, I focused on the scenery. It's not everyday I see mountains and huge rock formations just along my walking route. I took advantage and enjoyed the serenity that only nature can provide. 

Corong-Corong bay is not along the road but there are restaurants and resorts I passed by that have access to the beach. In the afternoon, the water is filled with so many parked boats. Making up for the cluttered landscape is the view of surrounding islets and islands. 
Corong-Corong bay
Close to where I stayed (Overcomer Lodge), just a little off the main road is Altrove Pops (location map here), a small street lined with street art, cafes, stores and a food park.  
Altrove Pop District
I eventually reached the town center. It's small and you can just walk around and into narrow streets to  discover restaurants, fruit shake stands and souvenir shops. I craved for a light snack and found Midtown Bakery along Rizal street. El Nido's most popular bakery serves typical Filipino pastries sold in local bakeshops around the country. Their pan de coco is filling and packed with coconut which I love. While it's a bit more pricey than your usual bakery next door, it's a much cheaper snack option than eating inside a restaurant. (Tip : Midtown Bakery is beside Casa Cecilia located, along the main road leading to the dock.)
a typical street in El Nido town proper
More travel tips! Here are some helpful blogs on where to eat in El Nido :
Just Globe Trotting | Where to eat in El Nido
Simply Philippines | A Foodie's Guide to the Best Restaurants in El Nido

Though there's  a BPI ATM in town, it's still advisable to bring cash with you. I also observed cafes with wifi are everywhere though I'm not sure how fast it is. I traveled in November 2017, off the summer season but there's still plenty of visitors, mostly foreigners.

I was nearing the end of my walk when I chanced on Peak Corner, a fitness gym located at the corner of Calle Hama and Osmena streets. With its glass walls, I could see good- looking, chiseled men working out, another attraction in town. LOL! You can just grab a shake and stand in the corner and do some "man bathing". It's an idea, though a very creepy one. :P 

Tricycle drivers are also available in town to take you on your tour. For an entertaining  and reliable driver, you can contact Nelson Fernandez through his mobile number +63 907 327 1050.  His rates for island tours A,B,C,D ranges from 1,200-1,400 PHP/head. You can also hire him to take you on an inland tricycle tour and visit Nacpan beach or see Kuyawyaw waterfalls. His tip, if you want to see a good sunset, visit Las Cavanas or Maremegmeg beach (he can take you there for 300 PHP). *Rates may change and I may not be able to update this blog. Please always confirm before booking.

This is my first trip to El Nido and while I found it very touristy, I enjoyed my stay and will be coming back. I love that there's plenty of dining options, there's good coffee such as the one served in The Cavern and that I can just book an island hopping tour even if I'm going solo and it won't be more expensive that traveling with a group since most operators charge per head. 

Travel Resources when planning for your trip to El Nido : 
Lakas ng Trip | Helpful El Nido posts 
Travel in Boots | El Nido, Palawan : Full Travel Guide(with Practical Itinerary)
Lakwatsero | El Nido Travel Guide 2018 : How to Get There, Where to Stay, Sample Itinerary and Other Tips

This trip is part of my week long birthday trip. Here are my other blog posts on this:
Leg 1 : El Nido Experience with Northern Hope Tours | Walking Around El Nido Town (You're here!:))

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Canada | Manila to Taoyuan International Airport Layover

The first leg of my long journey to Ontario began with a layover from Manila to Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei. I had such good experience flying with EVA Air (mainly because they served good food) that I was still full and high with energy when I arrived. After doing some research, I realized the 4.40 hr layover wasn't enough for me to get out of the airport and do some decent exploring. Fortunately, Taoyuan International Airport is wonderful. Easy to navigate, it has plenty of facilities to entertain travelers with long layovers. There's free wifi too in the entire airport, making it easier to pass the time. 
landing at Taoyuan International Airport
When I reached Taipei, I didn't have to go through immigration or pick up my luggage. I thought I'd be bored with all the free time I had but I got so engrossed looking around and trying out things that I ended up having to rush to my boarding gate for my next flight! 

The waiting areas are themed and one of famous ones is the Hello Kitty waiting lounge. I am no fan but it was amusing to see all that pink. Being a foodie, I was even more amused with the food themed lounge with seats in the shape of dim sum inside a bamboo steamer. Hehe! :) 
Inside Terminal 2 of Taoyuan airport
Our flight from EVA Air landed at Terminal 2 and thankfully, it was also where I was taking my next flight to Toronto Pearson airport. 

There were free massage chairs near C9 boarding gate but you need to secure a token first from one of the Information desks. Each person gets a token which you put in a slot connected to the chair. The massage lasts around 20-30 minutes and was adequately long enough to provide relief to my sore muscles. :)
Massage Chair lounge
Aside from the free massage, there are also rest areas with comfortable lounge chairs where you can sleep or charge your gadgets. Just be mindful of your belongings. 

What I found really cool were these workstation pods which are located beside the airport library. I sat down and just browsed on my phone.  The seat was so comfortable! 
Workstations beside the airport library. You can stay here for free and try the different types of lighting for  relaxing, studying, etc. The lighting does have an effect on the eyes. It's pretty cool!

The library's near D2 boarding gate but I didn't have enough time to sit and browse through its selections.
Airport library
Aside from these facilities, you can also take a shower, go on a food trip, do some shopping (there are money changers and ATMs at the departure area) and even play video games. 

To locate the airport facilities, click 
here for a passengers guide map of Terminal 2 Taoyuan International airport. 


Travel Tip :
Travelers with a 7-24 hour layover and have valid R.O.C. (Republic of China - Taiwan) visa or are visa-exempt may avail of free half day tours in Taiwan. Complete information here. (Info may change, please always double check with the information center at the airport)

Airport website here. 

I booked my flight to Toronto Pearson Airport via the Traveloka mobile app just because the interface is so much simpler. I can even select my seats with it. I didn't get my voucher until the next day but after contacting customer support, I received it right away so I was happy with it.  After booking via the Traveloka app, I double checked my booking through EVA Air website and it was there. :) Easy! Traveloka's still one of my favorite travel apps. 

Note:
Trip was December 2017

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Mt. Danayag Day Hike in Aurora

Despite the rain, I felt sleepy and sluggish up until we got to the second hour of our hike.  After being on the road for 5 hours the night before, the lack of a proper sleep had taken its toll, even the fresh mountain air couldn't wake me up. Thankfully, the first part of the trail from Brgy. Ditumabo, was easy. It was flat though very muddy. 

The same barangay serves as the jump-off to visitors going to Mother falls, a major attraction for people visiting the nearby municipality of Baler. Popular as a surf spot with plenty of restaurants around it, I toyed with the idea of staying behind to relax and enjoy the sea. But being a loyal lover, I had chosen the mountains again for the nth time. 
Rest stop at this view deck
The rain that welcomed us at the start of the hike accompanied us on our way up the mountain, making it uncomfortably cold. After the flat terrain, it became steeper and narrower. I was wet, both from the rain and sweat. I brushed countless times on plants along the the trail but I don't mind. The thick forest was enjoyable. Though rainwater had made it slippery, there were lots of branches to hold on to making the hike up quite manageable. There were limatiks (leeches) present too but  since I stayed at the back of the pack, I only had limited encounters with the blood suckers. 
Pitcher plants
Before we know it, we had gotten through 6 hours of the hike. We had a quick lunch at the campsite, about 40 minutes away from the summit. While we were gorging on food, other insects (niknik) feasted on us. These insects have the most annoying bite. Itchy and painful on the skin, its bites can cause scarring. Good thing, it can be driven away with insect repellent. 
While the fog had obscured the views at the summit, we were entertained by the plant life around us. The mountain is  more or less 1,595 MASL tall and we hardly noticed the long hike to its peak. Passing a mossy forest,  we saw orchids, pitcher plants with a wide base and other wild flowers. 
These heart-shaped flowers were right in the middle of the trail and I just had to stop and take a photo. :)
Going back down the same way was actually more challenging and longer. We had to be careful with the muddy and slippery trail. We finished the hike in 13 hours and celebrated with a nice meal at Bayler View Restaurant in Baler. 
Summit shot. Photo from Gideon Lasco.
Notes : 
The mountain's jump-off is in Brgy. Ditumabo, San Luis, Aurora. 
To hike this mountain, go to barangay hall and inquire for guides.
A day hike takes about 13 hours, out and back but it may vary depending on the group's pace. Limatiks are present along the mossy forest section. As mentioned above,  there are also nikniks at the campsite near the summit. There are no water sources in the middle of the trail. You need to bring enough (I brought 2.5 liters) hydration for your hike. 

Baler, a popular surf spot is near San Luis and is a nice place to explore. There's plenty of lodging options, restaurants and welcoming locals. Here's a helpful resource,  Lakwatsero | Baler Travel Guide 2018

Related Blog : 
My friend Gid has also posted his blog about our hike on Pinoy Mountaineer | Hiking matters #585.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Samar, An Exciting Destination for Adventurers & Nature Lovers

On this 3 day trip to Samar, I joined fellow bloggers in trekking, caving and riding boats that passed scenic riversides. Samar offers raw adventures in vibrant forests that are challenging, tiring and at times, nerve wrecking. If you’re that type of traveler who loves nature and don’t mind roughing it up, come and visit Samar!
Fellow blogger Ruth Dela Cruz at Panaghoyan river in Jiabong, Samar
Here are some of the places you can explore in this beautiful province. 

San Juan by the Bay (Sta. Rita, Samar)
On this mild adventure, visitors can take a leisurely cruise along San Juanico strait and dine on a floating restaurant that offers a nice view of the iconic San Juanico bridge and its nearby islands. It also features a 400 meter boardwalk that passes a mangrove. Made of bamboo, the wood makes a rickety sound as you walk on it, adding a little thrill to your short walk. Wearing slippers is okay. Just watch your steps and enjoy the amazing plant life around you. 

Trivia time! Did you know that mangroves and the tree species that grow around it are the coolest? Aside from being a tourist attraction, mangroves also serves as a home to mollusks, shrimps and fishes, that serve as food to coastal communities that it  protects.  Filtering sediments from rivers and land, it helps stabilize the coastline, preventing erosion from waves and sand. (Source : www.org)
view from our boat
San Juan by the Bay 
Address : Brgy. San Juan, Sta. Rita, Samar
Mobile Numbers : +63(936)241-0371 /(997)8397922
For rates and reminders, see photo below:

Sohoton Natural Park (Basey, Samar)
The fun starts with a river cruise or boat ride to the cave jump-off. The cave tour itself is  easy and only gets tricky on some sections where you have to crouch or walk on slippery mud. Another highlight is the kayak ride to the natural bridge. When the current is too strong, there's no need to worry  as guides can take care of the rowing and you can just sit back and relax. 
riding a tandem kayak controlled by our guides to the Sohoton Natural Bridge
Helpful Blog : FAQ.PH | How to get to Sohoton Natural Bridge National Park 

Lulugayan Falls (Calbiga, Samar)
Located in a remote barangay in the mountains, the ride to get here - which is usually by motorbike is just as thrilling as the trek to the waterfalls. The hike is short, taking about 30 minutes on an established trail.During the rainy season however, the current is strong, making it very risky to swim.
Lulugayan Falls during the rainy season
Helpful Blog : Travel Trilogy | Lulugayan Falls

TORPEDO Extreme Boat Ride (Paranas, Samar)
TORPEDO is an acronym for Tour Guides & Boat Operators for River Protection and Environmental Development Organization. Whew! The real thrill however is the ride along Ulot river on a traditional boat.
Hopping on a traditional boat at Ulot River
Having no outriggers, getting on the boat is both challenging and fun, with passengers needing to board one at a time to prevent the boat from tilting over.  It takes 40 minutes to get to the jump site, an area surrounded by huge boulders. Here, visitors take turns jumping about 10-15 feet from a boulder and into the raging river. All visitors are required to wear life vest, making it possible for non-swimmers to participate in this exciting activity.
A traveler does an exhilarating jump at Ulot river
Helpful Blog on Ulot River Torpedo Boat ride : Travel Up | Endless Samar

Lobo Cave (Jiabong, Samar)
This cave provides a nice challenge to visitors who want to level up their experience with caves. It begins with a 40 minute hike down a mountain trail to get to the mouth's cave. 
Swimming inside Lobo cave
Inside the cave, you will be entertained with rock formations of various shapes, glittering stalactites and columns. This eye popping underground scenery however doesn't come easy. Expect to trek, climb on rock formations and swim inside the cave. It'll take about 7-8 hours to fully explore its passable sections. The easy way back is via Panaghoyan river where boats will transport you back to the town proper. The ride is very scenic, passing  by forests, more rock formations and a mangrove, a relaxing way to end an exciting caving adventure. 

See more of Lobo Cave here.

For more information when traveling to Samar, get in touch with the provincial tourism social media accounts below : 
Spark Samar
Landline : +63 (055) 543 8980
Email : sparksamar@gmail.com
Facebook Page : Spark Samar
Instagram : @SparkSamar

Tips on how to enjoy your Samar adventure:

- secure your phones in a trusty waterproof pouch
- pack your extra clothes and valuables in waterproof, resealable bags or dry bags
- bring mosquito repellant as you will be spending a lot of time in or near forests and rivers 


Sample Itinerary
Day 1 
Fly from Manila to Tacloban Airport 
San Juan by the Bay in Sta. Rita
Sohoton Natural Park in Basey
Stay at Lola Rosa Inn in Calbiga (info here)

Day 2
Travel to Lulugayan falls (Calbiga)
TORPEDO Extreme Boat Ride (Paranas)
Spend a night in Calbayog city. It's a good starting point if you're going to Lobo cave. 
There are several hotels along Mabini Avenue (city center) in Calbayog. We stayed at SC Hotel (room rates start at 1,450 for a nice aircon double room. Book here.)

Day 3
Lobo Cave Adventure (Jiabong)
Visit the tourism office in Calbayog for pasalubong shopping (near Provincial Capitol Complex)

*Budget will be dependent on number of heads, transportation used.

How to get to Samar : 
Though there's an airport in Catarman (Northern Samar) and in Calbayog, a cheaper and convenient way to get here from Manila is to fly to Tacloban, in the nearby province of Leyte. It has more flights coming from Manila and there's regular transportation going to Calbayog, Samar.  From Daniel Romualdez airport in Tacloban, take a jeep to downtown and ask to be dropped off at the van or bus terminal. It takes about two hours by van from Tacloban to Catbalogan. 

Useful Resource : 
Travel Up | Samar Travel Guide
What else to see in Samar? See FAQ.PH | Samar Island, the Caving Capital of the Philippines

NOTE : 
This trip was in collaboration with the group behind Spark Samar, the provincial tourism campaign of Samar. 





Monday, March 5, 2018

Isabela's Bambanti Festival 2018

Every year, the province of Isabela in Northern Luzon, celebrates Bambanti Festival, a thanksgiving of the province's sustained agricultural dominance. Its strength can be seen in its position as the Philippines' no. 1 corn producer and as a surplus producer of rice, enabling them to supply the staple crop in Metro Manila and other provinces. 

*Bambanti is Ilocano for "scarecrow", considered as a symbol of the diligence, creativity, resilience and vigilance of the Isabelenos. 
Performers from the municipality of Alicia, winner of the Best Street Dance Contingent
(Photo from YMV & Associates)

Celebrated this year from January 22 to 27 with the theme, "Isabela Kong Mahal", various competitions were held showcasing the talents of the Isabelenos and the province's top products. 

In the Bambanti Village in Ilagan, an Agri-Eco Tourism trade fair was set where visitors can marvel at giant Bambanti installations and  shop for each municipality's major products.  Being a foodie, I enthusiastically went around the booths haunting for edible treats. 
The municipality of Naguilian won as the Best Agri-eco tourism booth. (Photo from YMV Associates)
Some of my favorite finds are the carabao's milk of San Agustin and Cabatuan's calamansi drinks  and morieco, a delicacy made of glutinous rice with latik inside (latik is made of boiled coconut milk and sugar). 

We also dropped by Makan Ti Isabela and Mainum Ti Isabela, a showdown of the best food and drinks prepared by each municipality's representatives. While I'm not much of a cook, I enjoyed watching a different kind of competition. Though it's a little quieter than sports, it was still exciting to witness chefs and baristas prepare the best dish or drink within a time limit, while judges went around and asked questions. 

Mainum Ti was won by the municipality of Echague with their drink, Illuru, a health drink made from locally grown fruits and vegetables, that gives energy and boosts the immune system. Echague also won Makan Ti with their dish, Fried Sweet & Sour adobo, fusing the classic Filipino dish with other local ingredients such as sampaloc, kamias and honey. One thing I find unfortunate about these contests is that we didn't get to try it. hehe!
 Members of the San Agustin team preparing their dish at the Makan Ti Isabela
In the Street Dancing competition, we witnessed scarecrows come alive as participating contingents danced their way around the Ilagan Sports Complex oval. Each municipality showcased their top product through the design in their costumes, their respective Festival King & Queen leading the pack. Each contingent performed the same steps using the same music all throughout, with only their energy level and costumes setting them apart from their competitors. The festival music has this lively beat and enjoyable to listen to. After watching for an hour or so, I oddly found myself craving to learn the steps.  
The contingent from Alicia was awarded first place at the Street Dance competition (Photo from YMV Associates)
After the Street Dance Parade competition, the same contingents performed at the Dance Showdown. As a mere spectator, I was amazed at how every participant was able to sustain their energy all throughout. In this competition, each contingent is able to showcase their creativity, performing their own dance steps. It's like watching a musical play. The municipality of Alicia won first place for both the Street Dancing competition and Dance showdown.
The Alicia contingent at the Dance Showdown (Photo from YMV Associates)

Performers from Cauyan City, the Over-all Festival winner based on
number of points from various winning competitions held during the festival week.
(Photo from YMV Associates)

Trivia Time! The province of Isabela was found in 1856 through a Royal Decree by the Spaish government and named after Queen Isabela II of Spain. A sculpture of the queen can be found in the capitol grounds in Ilagan. 
The next day, we headed back to Ilagan Sports Complex for the choral competition finals. Here, participating groups wowed the spectators with their vocal skills, singing two songs, each - one of their choice and a mandatory song, Isabela's provincial hymn. The choral group from Cauyan city bagged first place in this year's competition with their solid performance. Their youthful energy was contagious, drawing enthusiastic reaction from the crowd with their rendition of Piliin Mo Ang Pilipinas. 
Cauyan City choral group
Closing off the festival is a packed and well-received concert with guest artists, Ogie Alcasid, Jona Viray, McCoy de Leon, Elisse Joson and 4th Impact. A remarkable fireworks display ended a long, fun-filled evening. 

The Bambanti Festival is a  three time winner of the Aliw Awards, the country's pioneer award-giving body recognizing excellence in live entertainment. It has consistently won the category of Best Festival Practices & Performance from 2015-2017. 

Where to go in Isabela
Japanese Tunnel (Ilagan) - a tunnel used by the Japanese as a base, prison cell and treasure storage. For more information, visit their Facebook page here.

Aguinaldo Shrine (Palanan) - Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo's Last Stand, the site of his arrest by American soldiers. Travel information here.

Philippine Crocodile Farm (Brgy. Minanga, San Mariano) -  travel information here. 

St. Paul Church  (San Pablo) - Isabela’s oldest church

St. Matthias Church (Tumauini) - 17th Century Church with the only cylindrical belfry in the Philippines

Our Lady of the Visitation in Gamu (near Ilagan City) - a National Shrine to honor the miraculous Mother

Sta. Victoria Caves (Ilagan City) - chambers within chambers of awesome stone formations that used to house Filipino Guerillas during the Japanese Occupation in Ph. Travel info here.

Butaka (Ilagan) - Biggest Lounge Chair in the World displayed along the road as you enter Ilagan; The Butaka is a long-arm Siesta Chair. 

Honeymoon Island (Divilacan) -  The undiscovered picture-perfect beach paradise in the Pacific.

How to get to Isabela
From Manila, there are domestic flights to Cauayan city. Alternatively, there are buses to Cauayan, departing from the Victory Liner bus terminal in Kamias, Cubao (10-12 hours travel time; Fare's about 650 PHP).  

Where to Stay in Isabela 
We stayed at JAPI Hotel, a roadside hotel in Cauayan City. Rooms are clean and comfortable. Click here for discounted rates.

Love festivals? Here's another blog post you might be interested in :) :
Tawi-Tawi's Kamahardikaan & Agal-Agal Festival 

NOTE : I was invited to join this trip as part of the media team covering the Bambanti Festival 2018.



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